Golf companies put on a show at Golfest

CHAMPIONSGATE, Fla. – I have discovered the greatest bargain in golf, and it is called Golfest.

Here at ChampionsGate Golf Club, just south of Disney World, golfers pay $10 and then hit as many balls as they like, using the newest clubs from the top manufacturers.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I should point out that my employer, Turnstile Publishing, is the organizer of this two-day event (Jan. 23-24). However, even if the Golfest concept came from the Extra Terrestrial Golf Association, I would tell you it is a fantastic idea.

On a beautiful day in central Florida, here is what I learned from some of the golf companies at Golfest:

WINN GRIPS: The new WinnLite grip is roughly half the weight of an ordinary golf grip. Winn says it weighs as little as 25 grams. I placed a WinnLite men’s grip on a gram scale, and it weighed closer to 30 grams, but what’s a few grams among friends?

This is an extraordinary grip. Replacing a normal grip on a driver with a WinnLite will raise the swingweight about five points. This means D0 could easily go to D5. This is important because many golfers are finding they hit the ball longer or straighter – or both – with a superlight grip.

TAYLORMADE: The new Burner 2010 driver, which will appear in golf shops and retail outlets before the end of February, comes stock with a WinnLite grip. The swingweight of the Burner 2010 is said to be as high as D7 or D8.

This is a revolutionary shift, because modern driver swingweights have pretty much settled in the D0 to D2 range. The key here is that a heavier swingweight actually comes with a lighter overall weight.

ADAMS: The buzz is focused on the Speedline Fast 10 driver from Adams, but I loved the Pro Black irons and hybrids. These are classic irons with a narrow sole and thin top line. Add a black KBS steel shaft, and the Pro Black presents the stealthiest look in golf. The hybrids are designed for skilled players – they have small heads along with Aldila Voodoo shafts, and they definitely are iron hybrids rather than wood hybrids.

CALLAWAY/ODYSSEY: Odyssey has three new putters in a family called Backstryke. The three models are called 2-Ball, Blade and Marxman. These three feature expansive sight alignment, because the shaft is angled severely rearward near the putter head, exposing the entire head and the sight lines to the golfer’s eye.

WILSON: The Half and Half shaft, which is exclusive to Wilson, is spectacular. Attendees at Golfest were wowed by this new combination of steel (lower half) and graphite (upper half).

How are the two halves joined? By a curing process in which the graphite actually covers and dampens the end of the steel portion.

TITLEIST: In the world of wedges, Titleist’s Vokey Design wedges have become the dominant factor on the PGA Tour and in the consumer marketplace. The new C-C (Condition of Competition) wedges from Titleist will be in shops soon, although amateurs don’t need to switch to these less aggressive grooves until 2014 (elite amateur events) or 2024 (most local tournaments and everyday play).

COBRA: The sound of Cobra’s two newest drivers, the ZL and S2, is more like the sound of dead solid perfect persimmon than any other drivers in golf. At least that’s my opinion.

Cobra drivers used to be loud and tinny. Now they are muted and very substantial.

PING: Huge lines of people were evident, with golfers trying to decide which of the new 15s they like more, the G15 or i15. Ping is widely known for offering a tremendous variety of clubs for players with different swings and golf games.

NIKE: The new adjustable VR fairway woods make so much sense to me. If a golfer’s tendency is to hit fairway woods slightly to the right – very common because it is easy to hang back on fairway wood shots from tight lies – just dial the face slightly to the left. 

MIZUNO: Simply the biggest choice of forged irons in golf, Mizuno offers muscle back, cavity back and combo models that combine the attributes of both muscle and cavity.

ALDILA: Many people are asking about the RIP shaft that is being seen on the PGA Tour. It still isn’t available to ordinary golfers, but should be before the end of the summer. Weights of the RIP will be 60, 70 or 80 grams, each available in R, S or X flex.

TRUE TEMPER: I love Project X steel, so it makes sense that I also love the new Project X graphite. Low handicap golfers should try this shaft.

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